There is a principle found throughout the Mosaic Law about returning something to its owner. Although we don’t always have the specifics given to us, it would seem that the person had stolen or possibly damaged or destroyed something that belonged to someone else. The principle was simply this: you had to restore more than what you had taken. Notice these instructions:
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the LORD for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him. And every contribution, all the holy donations of the people of Israel, which they bring to the priest, shall be his. Each one shall keep his holy donations: whatever anyone gives to the priest shall be his” (Numbers 5:5-10 ESV).
Whatever it was the person had done, he had to restore it plus an additional 20%. If he couldn’t give it to the person, then it was to go to his next of kin, and if there was no next of kin, then it was to go to the priest. If nothing else, this was to show his sorrow for what he had done and his wanting to make it right.
We see something similar when Jesus spoke with Zacchaeus. After spending time with Jesus, he resolved that he would change. “But Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, half of my possessions I now give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone of anything, I am paying back four times as much!’” (Luke 19:8 NET).
Zacchaeus realized that in his position as a chief tax collector (Luke 19:2) that he undoubtedly had taken more than was required. He voluntarily offered to not only restore it, but to restore four times as much! No wonder Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10).
This is truly a great principle – restoring more than the value of what we have taken from someone. Perhaps if this was still part of our legal system, people would hesitate to steal or destroy another’s property.
But what if God asked this of us for the sins that we commit? We realize that all the wrong we do is not only against a person but it is also against God himself. Not only could we not pay back the wrong we do to God, there is no way we could pay it back with even more!
This is where Jesus comes in. He paid the price for us. “(My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
No wonder the hymn writer wrote: “Jesus paid it all, All to him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain – he washed it white as snow.”
The price for our sin has been paid. We need to obediently submit our lives to Jesus and accept it.
Readings for next week:
13 February – Numbers 2
14 February – Numbers 3
15 February – Numbers 4:1-28
16 February – Numbers 4:29-49
17 February – Numbers 5